Hannah Davis, Program Director at MergeLane
MEET HANNAH DAVIS
Hannah Davis is a tenacious networker and connector who is passionate about developing community. She helps entrepreneurs and like-minded individuals find direction and advance both professionally and personally, thus building opportunities for others to grow and learn from one another.
Originally from Hallowell, Maine, Hannah found her way to Boulder, Colorado after she took the leap to explore jobs and opportunities out west. She is now the Program Director for MergeLane. In addition to her day job, Hannah hosts informal dinner parties for groups of ten or less. You might be thinking potluck – think again, these intentional dinner parties are facilitated to bring together community members to discuss a specific topic.
After helping open and collaborating with Impact Hub in Boulder, Hannah connected with the Co-Founders for MergeLane and the rest is history…
Let’s Do This is thrilled for you to learn more about Hannah and her path to success.
GET TO KNOW MERGELANE
MergeLane is based in Boulder, Colorado and discovers, accelerates and invests in exceptional women and the companies they run. They offer a number of valuable programs that are developed to broaden the onramp for women at key stages of the startup and innovation ecosystem. In order to qualify for the program, a startup must have at least one female in a leadership position.
There are three main programs at this time: the MergeLane Accelerator, Leadership Camp, and the MergeLane Fund. In addition to these programs, MergeLane produces high-quality content to educate thousands of leaders and companies around the world through informative resources, podcasts, speaking, and events.
The MergeLane Accelerator is an annual 12-week program that pairs a select cohort of high-growth startups with industry-leading mentors to dramatically increase the startups’ growth trajectory. Accelerator companies may receive up to $120,000 in MergeLane investment.
Leadership Camp is an intensive three-day workshop for female leaders in startups, industry, and nonprofits. The workshop is designed to accelerate participants’ growth as innovative leaders.
The MergeLane Fund invests in outstanding female-led companies outside the accelerator cohort. At this time, MergeLane has raised $20.6 million in funding and created 432 jobs, including 39 leadership roles for women at 36 portfolio companies, including 27 accelerator cohort alumni.
LET’S DO THIS
LDT: What path led you to Boulder?
HD: I graduated college in 2010 and spent the summer waitressing to save money. I went out west and did a ski bum season.
Then I did a program – nine months for social and environment with a focus on entrepreneurs. I did five months in Israel and four months in India.
I moved back to Maine and moved in with my parents again. I was working in an insurance office and applying for jobs remotely. I was like, “Alright, I gotta do something. I need to capitalize on my youth.”
My older brother lived in Boulder. I was like, maybe I’ll go to Africa and work on a permaculture farm. Then I moved in with my brother, slept on his floor for a few months and I got a waitressing job. I fell in love with Boulder.
LDT: How did that opportunity come together to work with MergeLane?
HD: So waitressed for the first six months. While I was doing that I had a flexible schedule.
I had heard of the organization, Impact Hub out of San Francisco. I knew they were opening one in Boulder. I approached them and was like “hey, I’ve got time. How can I help?”
So I volunteered with them in the beginning. Then, when it was closer to opening, I was hired hourly part-time and quickly turned it into my full-time job as soon as they opened. So I started as the volunteer, then I was the Host and went to Events Manager, then I ended up as the Interim Operations Manager.
The Co-Founders of MergeLane were there at one point. When they started MergeLane they were like, “You’re perfect! Come join us.”
LDT: What kind of work do you do? What is a typical day in your life?
HD: So it kind of depends on where we are in our programming.
Right now we’re in program. So I’m super busy running our business curriculum. So we have team meetings, speakers and it’s all remote. Yesterday we had a talk on analytics, today we covered pitches. I’m generally handling inquiries and running events. This morning, I’m doing this call with you and I had two coffees with people in the community. I’m giving back to the community here in that way.
LDT: What is your rose? Thorn? I.e. what frustrates or challenges you in your work? And what is the most valuable, exciting part?
HD: I think the rose is when I’m getting to meet with people, having personal human connections – helping people reach their potential more… whether it’s finding purpose, meaning, connections, joy.
I think the thorn is being on a computer and answering emails a lot of the day. And the thorn with that is really hacking focus. How can I really be focusing on the important things? And not getting lost in the urgent, but unimportant email. Focus is really hard when there are a lot of things coming at you.
LDT: What do you feel most proud about in your current role?
HD: I mean, it’s really fun for me. We run one accelerator per year. It’s a really a great reflection point.
At first, it was like, “Cool, I’m organizing.” And now three years into it, it’s like, “Oh, I can really see the value I have to add.”
Scheduling and putting it together is second nature to me. I add value as a mentor to teams and give them start-up advice or coaching advice. I can support them and see the value I add, which is more than just being the behind the scenes girl.
LDT: What is your target audience? Who do you mainly work with?
HD: MergeLane works with start-up companies. Companies that have at least one female in leadership.
LDT: What is your outlet from work?
HD: Being outside. I love skiing, mountain biking, hiking, running when I’m not injured. I’m going to start climbing. Anything outdoors, moving my body. Connecting with people. Relationships are the number one thing for me.
Another project I’m working on is… essentially I wanna start a kind of… a co-housing community. Some friends of mine and I are actively working on what that’s going to look like.
We have lots of ideas and we’re in the research phase. It would be like a co-housing, co-working, maker space on farmland. I think we’ll develop a new model with different tiers of involvement and ways to engage. The number one thing is that it’s relational based and running it like a start-up, in a way.
I think a lot of these communities fail for similar reasons that startups fail: founder burnout, lack of capital, poor business model… With that, I’m looking for a way to increase my impact in the world in a positive way and kind of lessen… compared to most people, my lines between work and life are minimal. But how can I decrease those lines even more? And in the state of the world we’re in right now community is one of the antidotes to a lot of the issues that we’re facing, especially around mental health and isolation, but also sustainability and things like that.
LDT: How do you maintain or not maintain work-life balance?
HD: I would say I definitely maintain work-life balance. And I do that because I don’t separate work and life. Some of my meetings today were… they reached out to me because of MergeLane and there was a nice mix of… yeah, I just want to help people with Marketing and PR for free. She was new to Boulder and I ended up putting her on my dinner party list. That was a work life convo. They’re all like that.
I do a lot of walking meetings. That’s the getting outside, moving my body. So if I’m going to take a meeting in person, my first request is, “can we walk?” I’m constantly trying to integrate that into my day.
Then the Boulder community is such a tight, giving community. So folks that I work with, typically I often hang out with also. Then my work culture helps.
We help support each other [at MergeLane]. Sue is trying to get to yoga everyday. So I don’t schedule meetings during the certain times I know she is trying to get to yoga. It’s about the output, not about the hours spent. We’re super privileged, we’re lucky to be able to do that. We have a small team. When you’re really passionate about something, it just doesn’t feel like work in that way. I really believe in what we’re doing.
LDT: What do you want to do next? What is your next goal or initiative?
HD: I think it’s this community I mentioned. I have no desire to leave MergeLane anytime soon and so kind of sticking with MergeLane while developing this. It’s not an either-or kind of thing.
LDT: What kind of connections are you looking to make or need?
HD: Females at start-ups that are looking for funding, that have traction in the seed to Series A stage.
And we run a lot of programming on transparent leadership. So people who are really looking to dive deep into personal development. This has a lens to business and work, but it applies to all of your relationships – to see all of the unconscious commitments you have in life and helping you reach your full potential. I love for people to come to these events that we host.
LDT: How do you think your market or industry is going to change in the next 5 years? 10 years?
HD: I think the accelerator model is going to drastically change. There will not be so many accelerators.
We’re already looking to shift our focus and what that looks like for us in a drastic way. Keep an eye out for MergeLane insight to change this year.
LDT: Where would you like to be able to focus your energies if you had more time?
HD: There are so many things that come to mind… I think community is one.
I’m really interested to explore my white privilege more. Being in Boulder, being from Maine, and going to school in Vermont, I’ve lived in some relatively homogenous places. Diving into that would be somewhere I would like to spend more time. I am doing that, but more… I would like to get involved with volunteering more and things that I’m passionate about. And creating this community.
LDT: Who or what kind of people would you like to read an interview from?
HD: I think just diverse perspectives. And diverse people. Whether it’s different socio-economic backgrounds, race, religion, or immigrants in the US, or Republicans. Just different people than me.
Each interview on Let’s Do This features a guest question from a previous collaborator. This question comes from Karen Boelts, Founder of Little Bridget Jewelry. Based in Boulder, Little Bridget Jewelry has an LGBT line to share messages of love and equality to inspire change.
Karen Boelts: Are you doing what you’re passionate about? And if not, why?
HD: I am doing what I’m passionate about.
LDT: What is your question for next interview? What do you want to know?
HD: Who has been your most meaningful mentor and why?
Let’s Do This! Stop, Collaborate & Listen
If you’re interested in a future collaboration or learning more about Hannah Davis & MergeLane, you can connect and follow her journey using the links below.
- Website: www.mergelane.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: @mergelaneaccelerator
- Twitter: @mergelane